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Essential Nutrients Your Dog Needs To Be Healthy: Guide

Nutrition is the basis of good health for people, hamsters, and dogs alike. Typically, nutritional needs represent nutrients that an animal cannot synthesis but can obtain from diet. They are primarily species-specific, with some overlap.

Humans and guinea pigs, for example, must obtain vitamin C from their diets. Some organisms can generate it internally. Some animals, such as cats, are obligatory carnivores, meaning they must consume meat to survive.

Intriguingly, dogs and humans share around 84% of DNA. So, a dog's food will share many similarities with the human diet.

Nevertheless, this does not indicate that both species can consume the same foods. Humans can consume chocolate, although dogs and several other animals cannot.

It is good to begin with the fundamentals when understanding what sorts of food your dog should ingest by reading "Essential Nutrients Your Dog Needs to Be Healthy: %year% Guide" by BestForPets (bestforpets.org).

Carnivore or Omnivore Diet

It is a matter of heated discussion whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores. Long ago, experts thought that their ancestors were wolves. Only somewhat true.

Wolves are a common ancestor of both wolves and dogs. Both species are descended from an extinct animal, but their evolutionary trajectories diverged.

The length of a dog’s intestines is one of the grounds in favor of omnivory. Plant-eating animals often have a longer digestive system, as these meals require more time to digest.

Very likely, you’ve witnessed your dog eating grass on occasion. Undoubtedly, their nutrition has been altered by their association with people.

On the other side, the dog’s carnassial teeth provide proof that it is a carnivore. They enable animals to shred flesh off their prey.

Moreover, canines have forward-facing eyes for homing in on prey. They can also go for extended periods without meals since meat keeps them fuller for longer. In general, dogs appear to be carnivores that have adapted to human society.


Dietary macronutrients consist of big, complex compounds. These characteristics appear on pet food labels to facilitate product comparison. Various animals have different needs.

You can use the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional profiles as a tool to determine what your puppy requires.

The 5 Essential Nutrients Your Dog Needs

1. Protein

Amino acids constitute the complex components that make up proteins. There are a total of 21, with nine vital to humans and ten to canines. Unlike other macronutrients, the body does not store protein. So, an organism must ingest it daily.

Long-term shortages in amino acids can have severe impacts on a dog’s health and lifespan, despite the seeming insignificance of the necessary levels.

Proteins offer the building blocks for other bodily molecules, whether in humans or animals. They serve as the foundation for a variety of things, including connective tissue, muscles, and nails.

Another factor to consider is the life stage of your pet. Puppies require more protein than adult dogs for growth and development.

Daily protein requirements for puppies range from 9.7 g to 12.5 g per kilogram of body weight. It is 2.62 grams per adult. This is 22% and 18%, respectively. The difference is that a growing dog need more protein.

2. Fat

Fat is an essential source of energy, providing 9 calories per gram. Both canines and humans will stockpile surplus quantities to assure a constant supply. Obviously, there are benefits and drawbacks to such reality.

Yet, fat is the raw material for numerous bodily structures and cholesterol, which is essential for the development and operation of the brain. Moreover, it assists dogs to store fat-soluble vitamins.

Once more, the quantity varies by life stage. A puppy requires 5.9 g of fat per kilogram of body weight to provide the energy required for development. An adult requires 1.3 g. The respective numbers are 8% and 5%.

Omega-3 fatty acids must also be consumed in suitable quantities by dogs. Because flaxseed is a great provider of essential nutrients, they frequently appear on ingredient lists.

3. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates deliver energy in an easier-to-digest form than fat. At 4 calories per gram, the production is lower. Carbohydrates are good for short spurts of energy, such as when your dog or cat is chasing a ball or climbing a tree.

Unlike other macronutrients, there are no set recommendations for carbohydrates and fiber. Yet, they are an essential element of your dog’s nutrition.

4. Vitamins

There are two primary categories of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. The former is, as its name suggests, soluble in liquids. Animals, including humans, are incapable of storing them.

Thus, they must obtain them daily. Nonetheless, they will excrete what they cannot use, rendering large quantities useless. Except for vitamin B12, which animals obtain from meat. It can be stored in the dog’s body. Dogs and cats do not require vitamin C since they can produce it themselves.

There are three fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, and E. Dogs do not require vitamin K in their food since they make it internally. These nutrients can be stored in the animal’s fat tissue.

This implies that excessive quantities can be hazardous since they can reach toxic levels. This is especially true for vitamin A. This is another reason why megadoses should not be considered when selecting pet food.

Remarkably, the minimum vitamin needs for pups and adult dogs are identical. To ensure that your dog is receiving adequate nutrition, look for the phrase “complete and balanced” on the packaging. It indicates the meal has all of the nutrients your pet needs in sufficient quantities.

This is the box label:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin B9 (Folic acid)
  • Vitamin B12
  • Choline

5. Minerals

There are three groups of minerals depending on their nutritional value and needed quantity. Macrominerals consist of essential elements like magnesium and calcium. Both pets and humans require a substantial quantity of in their diets. Trace minerals such as iodine and iron have significantly lower minimum levels.

Molybdenum is an example of a nutrient that does not fall into any of these two categories. Yet, they continue to be found in commercial dog meals.

The ratio between calcium and phosphorus is a second important mineral characteristic. The cause is due to absorption rates. If your dog consumes an excessive amount of phosphorus, it might inhibit their body’s capacity to absorb calcium, and vice versa. The optimal calcium to phosphorus ratio for pups is 1:1 while for adults it ranges from 1:1 to 2:1.

Balance is also necessary. Mineral excess can create major health problems, especially in pups. Hence, commercial diets are superior to homemade diets and table scraps. You may feel confident that your pet is receiving the necessary quantities of all nutrients.

Included among the minerals your dog requires are:

  • Calcium
  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Iron
  • Chloride
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Selenium
  • Iodine

Useful and Not-So-Useful Supplements

The pet food business offers its products to dog owners who desire the best for their pets. Often, this entails presenting a meal as being comparable to human food.

It is important to note that the AAFCO does not define human-grade food, and that things that humans like and require are not always good for dogs.

A pet food company must comply with USDA rules in order to develop meals that fulfill these criteria. It is crucial to recognize that human-grade goods are not synonymous with safety.

On the label of dog food, the components will be indicated in proportion to their quantity. Blueberries, cranberries, and sweet potatoes possess negligible nutritional benefit for your dog, especially in the minute amounts that they contain. These are more marketing tactics than nutritional supplements for your dog.

A Word About Calories

Obesity is a severe issue for both humans and pets. It can increase the likelihood that your dog will develop chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. We recommend monitoring your dog’s bodily condition and modifying their nutrition to prevent obesity.

Note that treats should not exceed 10% of your dog’s total daily calorie consumption. They will not include the same amount of nutrients as a commercial diet. These are a great training aid that you may use to your advantage if you limit how much your pet receives.

Similar to humans, the recommended daily calorie intake for your dog varies with their desired weight. For example, a 10-pound dog need 200-275 calories per day, whereas a 50-pound dog requires 700-900 calories per day. Comparatively, people require 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day.

The most effective method for managing pet obesity is prevention. It is far simpler to restrict your dog’s food consumption than to persuade them to lose weight. Monitoring their diet will produce faster outcomes than increasing their physical activity. Yet, a mix of the two is superior.

Wrapping Up

The single best thing you can do as a pet owner is to supply your dog with a high-quality, nutrient-rich meal in the proper amounts.

A nutritious diet will provide a solid basis for your dog’s growth and development, as well as the necessary nutrients to maintain health and avoid disease. The key point is that canine requirements are both comparable to and distinct from those of humans.

Essential Nutrients Your Dog Needs to Be Healthy” by BestForPets (bestforpets.org) recommend feeding only meals made for the breed size and life stage of your dog.

Feeding them human foods is a slippery slope leading to poor nutrition, nutritional deficiencies, and even allergic responses.

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Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher


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